Jim Siergey: Food For Thought

October 22nd, 2019

I’m not one to get all political in the tripe I type for this here revered Third City blog site but…(and that’s a but as big as the one currently occupying the Oval Office, but I digress).

I read an article in the newspaper about a poll regarding Americans’ aspects of “US Identity”. A good deal of it was encouraging.

According to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, majorities of Americans agree that diversity strengthens the country and that values such as constitutional rights, a fair judicial system and The American Dream are key to the nation’s identity.

That’s nice to know. Unfortunately, the afore-mentioned podex in the Oval Office does not appear to agree with those notions.

However, as the poll divides itself among white, black and Hispanic Americans and Democrats and Republicans, opinions differ.

General-Tsos-Chicken-4-680x453Nothing like a heaping plate of General Tso’s Chicken!

 

 

75% of Dems think diversity makes the country stronger, compared with 50% of Repubs. 51% of Americans say there should be an essential U.S. culture and set of values that immigrants must assume upon arrival while 46% say the country should be comprised of a blend of cultures and values that change as new people arrive.

77% of Republicans say that immigrants should adapt to a shared American culture while 57% of Dems say that recent immigrants have actually done that.

More than twice as many Republicans as Democrats say it is important that our nation’s culture is grounded in Christian religious beliefs.

I’ve never understood why religious beliefs are so important. Isn’t what’s in a person’s heart and what he does more important than to whom or what he prays or whether he prays at all? Then again, what would we do without hatred and envy?

The poll goes on to say that Americans are closely split over whether it’s better for immigrants to embrace a single U.S. culture or to add their own variations to the mix.

Closely split? Nearly half of Americans don’t want immigrants to add their variations to our culture?

Are these Americans willing to get rid of St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and in Chicago, Pulaski Day? Are they ready to eliminate from their diets such foods as pizza, tacos, gyros, pierogi, sushi, General Tso chicken and iced Thai coffee?

The gustatory list goes on and on and on…and on. If we eliminate all foods that immigrants have brought to our country all we’ll be left with is Yankee pot roast, fried chicken and grilled cheese sandwiches. Those dishes ain’t exactly bad but variety is the spice of life, eh what?

Come on, you rigid half of America, embrace diversity. You won’t know how much you miss it until it’s gone.

This is yet another reason why it’s important to vote and, especially now, to vote blue. If not, you may find that, among other things, your bibimbap has been taken away.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Exorcise

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Jim Siergey: Exorcise!

October 12th, 2019

I’m getting to that age where I have to exercise just to stay in shape.

Not the kind of exercise in which to pump up or train for a marathon or even to play a game of pick up basketball, although the game de rigeur for seniors now is something called Pickleball which appears to be a form of table tennis where the floor is the table and the ball is wiffle.

Nope, it’s exercise for the sake of staying limber and supple so one can move about without groaning and get up from a chair without grunting. Yep, I have reached that point in life.

Accepting my fate, I removed myself to the basement where I removed the clothes, unopened mail and a couple of boxes of doo-dads and whatsits from the treadmill, plugged it in and climbed aboard.

burtreynoldsanddogGetting in shape like Burt & friend…

 

I set my pace and began treading. Not treading water, mind you, but walking at a somewhat brisk pace akin to a hamster in a plastic ball. No running. I save that for when I need to catch a bus or to grab a fire extinguisher when one of my stir fry forays gets out of hand.

On I treaded. Five minutes. Fifteen minutes. Around the twenty five minute mark I began to feel a strange sensation.

My body began to feel prickly and little beads of water appeared on my forehead. My back felt damp too. OMG—it was sweat!  I was sweating!

I quickly turned off the machine and hopped off. There was sweat on my body, actual sweat. Seizing a New Yorker magazine that was lying nearby I tore out a page and mopped my brow.  I had to actually mop my brow! Oh, sweet Jesus, take me now!!

I have spent my entire life avoiding anything that might make me sweat and there I was, intentionally doing something that produced icky sweat to appear on my pristine body. Oh, the humiliation. Could I possibly sink any lower?

Now, I must admit that despite my best attempts at avoidance, I have sweated at times during my lifetime.  On some hot summer days I have ventured out of the shade and in my frivolous youth, I actually helped people move. Carrying boxes and furniture up and down stairs and in and out of trucks can bring about those horrid little beads of perspiration.

But, mostly, I have avoided physical labor.

As a youth, the sport I chose to play was baseball. You stood around in the field and only had to move if the ball was hit toward you and after three outs were recorded you got to come in and sit around until it was your turn to get up to bat. What a great sport.

But that was then, this is now. Here I am, knowing that I need to incorporate some exercise into my life while at the same time also needing to live up to my lifetime goal of avoiding sweat. What’s a body to do? Especially a body that desires mostly to be at rest.

Maybe isometric exercise is the way for me to go. Or isotonic exercise. I think that’s a thing. Many years ago I drank some isotonic vodka.

Mmmm, vodka…

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Slice Of Life

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Jim Siergey: Slice Of Life

October 6th, 2019

I once had a job slicing ham. The time I spent there was less time than it would take you to make a ham sandwich.

I was eighteen or nineteen years old, not the perfect age for someone seeking a dependable employee. I was the poster boy for that depiction yet somehow I got hired.

My boss was Mrs. Novi. She ran a deli section contained within the confines of a variety story. Y’know, one of those stores that sold a little bit of everything—clothing, records, books, notions, toys, hardware, garden stuff, pets, furniture, etc. It also had a lunch counter and, like the deli section, a self-contained candy section.

It was akin to a Woolworth’s, if anyone remembers those stores.

Mrs. Novi was built like a linebacker and barked like a drill sergeant.  There was no messing around with her and with the deli section being so small and self-contained there was no area in which to laze about for a bit.

I was disheartened about this because lazing about for a bit was my forte.

My job was to work the large shiny meat slicer where all day long I sliced ham. That was it. Slice ham. There was no waste either. If I came across any fat or hard pieces I was instructed to slide them in between the slices.

fargo-articleLargeMeat cutter…

 

 

The deli section also had one of those hot dog carousels. When the wieners had been on there so long that they were turning crusty, Mrs. Novi would cut them up and sell it as ham salad.

Like I said, no waste.

I pulled an eight hour gig slicing ham and let me tell you it was as exciting as it sounded. But, being of good stock with somewhat of a work ethic I showed up again the next day.

I put in another four hours of slicing ham with Mrs. Novi’s judgemental eye boring into me every time I happened to cease my meaty monotony for a moment. Then lunchtime arrived.

I went to lunch and decided that I just couldn’t continue any longer in this line of work. So, kissing that buck and a half an hour wage goodbye, I did not return.

I went home to catch up on my lazing about. I didn’t want to get rusty. After a couple hours, in which I got in a good work out, the telephone rang.

I answered and on the other end was a frantic Mrs. Novi. It was a side of her that I had not experienced before. She pleaded with me to come back to work. The next day was the beginning of the weekend, which meant a very busy period for the deli section, and she needed me.

She needed me.

Of course, the next day I went back and spent the weekend slicing ham.

I guess I got inured to the tedium of this temporary occupation because on Monday morning I made my way back to Mrs. Novi’s deli. Little did I know that a surprise would await me.

As I arrived and went to don my apron I found it no longer hung on its hook. Instead it hung around the neck of my replacement who turned out to be a good friend of mine. We looked at each other. He shrugged in embarrassment and my inner emotions went through a whirlwind of betrayal and relief.

I wasted no time in exiting the store, just in case there was another position available in the deli.

And, yes, it was many years before I was able to once again bite into a ham sandwich. But I have never ever again eaten ham salad.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Wait

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Jim Siergey: The Wait

September 22nd, 2019

Getting seated at the restaurant was difficult.

We stood behind the “Please Wait to be Seated” sign as we watched a crowd of people try to sort something out. We looked and listened as we loitered and learned that the cause of the ado was because of someone trying to “pay it forward”.

An elderly gentleman in suspenders holding onto one of those strap-on canes said “I don’t understand what is happening.” His puzzled wife hovered next to him gently touching his arm. A younger man tried to explain. “My family and I are here to have a nice time. We just wanted to pay for your dinner.”

Somehow this caused a problem with the person running the register who asked for assistance and turned what had been intended as a covert act of kindness into a bit of a brouhaha.

A small town snafu.

A small town in northeast Indiana is where we were. We had to temper our big city impatience and go with the flow which seemed to be operating as a trickle.

We were eventually recognized and led to a table in the corner and provided with menus.

There we sat for what some might call an eternity but I’ll just call a long time.

“You’d think someone would at least say hello and give us glasses of water.” my wife thirstily opined.

(Spoiler Alert: It took over an hour to get those glasses of water.)

Finally a plump young lady clad in waitress garb came over.

“I’m sorry.” she squeaked, “No one told me you were here.”

You’ll notice I wrote that she ‘squeaked’. She did indeed. Her voice was so high-pitched, tiny and squeaky that she sounded like Betty Boop on helium. Even more disconcerting was that she was not a tiny woman. She was, in fact, rather zaftig.

The excuse, however, was thin. There were only about four tables worth of diners in the spacious room. Not wishing to be Ugly Out-of-Town Americans, we kept our thoughts to ourselves.

First we each asked for a glass of water. In a pipsqueaky voice she explained that she would have brought us some but could only find one clean glass. So we ordered some wine.

The-weight-single-main

A different kind of wait…

 

In her unnerving kewpie doll voice she reminded us that purchasing a bottle would be more dollar smart than ordering wine by the glass. The menu stated that there were some wine choices from a nearby vineyard. Always willing to partake of the local wineries we ordered a bottle.

Time passed. We and the wine aged.

By and by, she appeared with two bottles in hand from which we could choose. Neither was from the local vineyard. We opted for an Italian merlot. She decanted and, after reminding her of our request for water, we imbibed of the grape.

As we waited for our food order, which were only appetizers, we saw another couple arise from their seats and abruptly leave. A shake of a lamb’s tail later, the light in the larynx lass appeared with a tray of food for that very table. She watched forlornly as the would-be diners, whose time limit for waiting had expired, disappeared out the door.

We wondered whether we should volunteer to consume their order since it was there for the taking but chose not to do so. That may have been a mistake.

With a now half empty bottle of wine on our table, I attracted the attention of the cashier. “Is there some way we could get glasses of water?” I politely asked. She looked startled and wandered off.

More time passed and we continued to sit under what seemed like one of Harry Potter’s cloaks of invisibility.  It was mostly the vino that kept us there.

Imaginary trumpets blared and fireworks were set off as the teensy toned waitress appeared with our food orders. We thanked her and again asked about the agua. After we had masticated and swallowed some of our food, two glasses of H2O were delivered, as I earlier noted, a full hour after we were initially seated.

We slaked.

We were now the only people, other than the cashier, in the area. We ate our fill, grabbed the not yet emptied bottle and took our bill, which the waitress did not forget to bring to our table, up to the cashier.

To my chagrin she asked, “How was everything?”

Leaving toothmarks in my tongue, I shrugged and mumbled, “Ohhh, okay.”

I’m a fucking saint…or something.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Hair Today

 

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Jim Siergey: Hair Today

September 16th, 2019

“Yeah, so I was flipping through the TV channels and came to rest upon a 1948 flick playing on TCM called The Many Loves of Carmen.”

“Rita Hayworth, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, the fiery haired Rita Hayworth…and the glum Glenn Ford.”

“He never did smile much.”

“Yeah, so I’m watching it for a while, maybe 20 minutes or so. And I see it’s a story of a guy who throws away his life for the love of a woman who doesn’t love him.  It’s a noir film, man! It’s set in the 1800s but it’s noir, man, except it’s in color and with gypsies.”

“I concede you your comparison but that story, it’s older than noir. Why, it’s as old as the ages.”

“Old as the ages, eh?”

“Yeah, well, I thought it sounded better than ‘as old as the hills’.”

“Yeah, yeah. T’was ever thus and all that. But, Ford and Hayworth, they made noir films, even some together. “Gilda” for one.”

“’Gilda’ is a good one. Did you know what Rita said when asked what kept her strapless gown up during her ‘Put the Blame on Mame’ routine?”

ritahayworthLook at that hair…

 

“Yeah, yeah, “two very good reasons”.  Good line, but that was that, this is this.”

“Which is…?”

“’The Loves of Carmen”, man. Pay attention.”

“I’ll try.”

“Now, I love the music, opera and story of “Carmen” but this movie. …the flaming red haired Rita Hayworth as a gypsy? “

“You don’t think there were any redheaded gypsies?”

“Oh, I’m sure there were. Like the Vikings, they got around. But, one’s stereotypical image of a gypsy girl, an Esmeralda, a Hedy LaMarr, is one with raven black hair.”

“Yeah, well,  stereotypes were made to be broken, man.”

“Don’t get militant with me, bub. We’re discussing Cinema here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Still, I gotta say Rita never looked lovelier and she was good in her role so I could overlook the hair thing. Glenn Ford, on the other hand, was a real drip. Especially when paired with the vivacious Rita.”

“As I remember, he played a bit of a wuss, didn’t he?”

“Yeah but the worse part was his hair.”

“His hair?”

“Yeah, in his early films he had a greasy look to his hair. Not slicked back but you’d need to wear rubber gloves if you planned to run your fingers through it.”

“Yes, and late in his career, he wore it almost crewcut style but combed forward into a Bryl-Creemed fence. “

“You got it. Weird hairdo, man. In this one he had Elvis hair. No where as good as Elvis but its design was in that direction. Plus he had sideburns!”

“Well, it was set in the 1800s…”

“Yeah, yeah. But the oily semi-bouffant did not suit him. In fact, that may have been the main turn off in the film to me. I couldn’t look at him with that hairdo any more.”

“So, you turned it off?

“Well, switched to something else.”

“So, how many stars do you give ‘The Loves of Carmen’?”

“Two. One for Rita and one for Victor Jory, who made a great gypsy. None for Glenn Ford and even less for his hair!”

“So, you didn’t love “The Loves of Carmen”?”

“Man, that is worse than ‘as old as the hills’ would have been. ”

(Cue trombone “wah-waaaah”)…

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Frontera Grill

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Jim Siergey: Frontera Grill

August 24th, 2019

I love Mexican food.

Enchiladas, tostadas, tacos, queso fundido, carne asada, pollo de mole, chiles rellenos, bring ‘em all on. I’m a hambre hombre.

A small group of us were discussing this particular cuisine one day and Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill was mentioned. It brought back my memory of the one time I had been there.

FYI, Rick Bayless is an American chef and restaurateur who specializes in Mexican fare.  He has a couple of high end Mexican restaurants in downtown Chicago, and elsewhere, I imagine.

Another FYI, if you dial in one of his televised cooking shows and close your eyes while he speaks, he sounds just like Barney Fife. But, that may just be me.

Anyway, several years ago, another couple along with my wife and I decided to spend the big bucks and dine at the Frontera Grill. We arrived, were seated, and ordered drinks and appetizers.

As we sipped and snacked, who should come walking down the aisle but Rick Bayless himself! We quickly and discreetly dabbed our faces with our napkins and straightened ourselves up to look presentable for El Maestro.

andygriffithVisions of Andy…

It turned out that he knew the people sitting at the booth right across the aisle from ours.  As he stood and spoke with them, visions of the Andy Griffith Show danced (to a Latin beat) through my head.He stayed and visited these people for quite a while.

As he visited, he began to bend over more and more in order to be on the same level as his friends, as they were seated and he stood. But, it being a narrow aisle, his butt began to intrude into our table space. In fact, it intruded right into my friend Chris’ face.

It didn’t touch him but its presence was quite conspicuous.

After a few more minutes of his buttocks bobbing and weaving in Chris’ countenance, Rick finally straightened up and left.

There was nothing more for me to say to Chris except that now there was one dish on the menu that he didn’t have to order since he already experienced it.

“What’s that?” Chris cautiously queried.

“Rick Bayless’ chiles re-anus!” I unashamedly responded.

Olé!

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Stardust Golden

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Jim Siergey: I Really Was At Woodstock–Part II

August 20th, 2019

Editor’s Note: If you really want to know what’s going on, read Woodstock, Part I….

Believe it or not — we eventually meet our two traveling mates in the middle of the woods.

It’s pitch back and a hard rain’s beginning to a’fall.  All that plus no one really has an idea of how to set up the five-man tent.

But we do have beer.

Come the morning and the tent, despite last night’s swirling maelstrom, still stands.  And now there are about twenty-five people in it.

Like a carful of soggy circus clowns, we exit the tent to find ourselves in the middle of a beautiful forest.  Glistening green grass, sunshine glinting through the branches of tall trees, fresh country air. To use the day’s vernacular — far fucking out.

It doesn’t take long before hunger pangs hit.   Yes, we brought a tent and sleeping bags and even a few dollars. But did we bring food — or a change of clothes?  Of course not!  We’re nineteen — what do you want?

We drive into town to get supplies and a meal, eating a hearty meal at an Italian restaurant.  The staff keeps bringing food:  “More bread? More pasta?” They must feel sorry for us wet and wanton wastrels of the woodlands.

Sly was there….

With bellies full, we head to the grocery store, which looks like the aftermath of a disaster.  The shelves are virtually empty — an item here, a few items there, slim pickin’s indeed.

That said, having just eaten, our judgment’s not that reliable. We buy a box of Ritz crackers and a bunch of Tootsie Roll Pops to last the weekend.

Somehow, we find a place to park and get back to our tent site.  It’s nearing dusk and the music would soon begin so the time for partaking of drugs has arrived.

I drop my green acid.  The other three fellows take mescaline.  It’s the first trip for one of them.  What a time and place to take an initial psychedelic voyage!

“I never dreamed it would be anything like this,” he says while cowering in the corner of the tent.

Before long, though, he’s grooving.  Wisely, Cindy partakes of nothing — she would be our earth mother.

We grab a blanket and head into the forest, the music wafting through the air serving as a psychedelic pied piper to the drowned rats of Woodstock Nation.

The acid hits during this journey.  It feels like I’m walking through trees and people.  It can’t be helped. They’re everywhere.  As is the mud.  Mud as thick as gravy.  Gravy that we slip and slide through….

There are people everywhere.  People upon people. All of them muddy.  Some naked.  Some clothed.  There are dogs.  And children. Guys on motorcycles ripping through the woods.  A guy pisses in the path in front of us. Off to the side, a couple is fucking.  It’s a Fellini movie come to life.

Finally, we reach the gathered throng. We’re far from the stage but as close as we can get.  It’s night.  The air’s filled with rock music.  We’re surrounded by people in the grasp of the collective unconscious. A beatific karass.  We’re tripping our brains out.

If this isn’t heaven, then what is?  We lay our blanket onto the mud.  I still don’t know if we sat upon it or not. It doesn’t really matter.

On stage, Leslie West, the humongous guitarist of Mountain, is playing.  I lie on my back and watch the show the nighttime sky puts on for me.  The stars dance.  Time flows.

If you look close you can see me….

Suddenly, the emcee is speaking. “Everyone who has taken the green acid,” he says. Then the sound abruptly cuts out.

Searchlights swing over the crowd.  I hear a helicopter.  My companions become agitated.  They know I have taken the green acid.  They believe the authorities are coming in to round up the Green Acid takers.  They’re worried for me.

Look — up in the sky!

Though lost in the cosmos, I still realize there’s no way anyone can know who took what.  I’m unconcerned.

The sound comes back on.  The system had momentarily shorted.  The helicopter’s not carrying the Mind Police — it’s merely transporting more acts.

Paranoia can indeed strike deep.

I look at the stage.  From where we sit, the performers are about an inch tall.  I feel like a giant.

Creedence Clearwater Revival hits the stage.  They get the crowd going for the following act, Sly and the Family Stone, which feeds on the energy. They’re both great.

Janis Joplin in her tiny, spangled dress tears her lungs out in a mighty performance. The Who performs many songs from their new rock opera “Tommy.”

I remember Abbie Hoffman taking the stage during the Who’s performance, urging the crowd to march on Washington.  Peter Townsend hits him in the head with his guitar and pushes him offstage.  “We’re just here to dig the music, man,” he growls.

Or something to that effect.  I am pretty sure this happened.

Then, in one of the most dramatic scenes I’ve ever experienced, The Jefferson Airplane come on stage as the morning sun rises behind them.  It’s enough to make a hippie cream his bell-bottoms.

The magical, muddy night’s come to an end.   With the rays of the early morning sun caressing our backs, we weary cosmic travelers trudge back to our campsites to zonk out for a few hours.

We never do meet up with Tim and Mel.  Later we learn that their “campsite” was in a cornfield and, during the rainstorm, under a truck.  Fortunately, they had enough drugs to help them make it through the ordeal….

In 2009, Cindy, Tim and I revisited the Woodstock site.  Forty years later, we finally met up with him at the front gate.  We took a photo as proof.

Tom emailed it to friends and family.  When his mother saw it, she got pissed.  “I never knew you went to Woodstock!” she chastised her 57-year-old son. “You were only 17!  Who said you could go?”

Forty years after the fact, Tim was afraid his mother would ground him.

So, that’s my tale, as best as I can remember.  It wasn’t until after we got back home that we learned that this Woodstock thing was a big deal.  A great, big far-fucking-out deal.  It didn’t seem so at the time.  To us, it was just a big wet walk in the woods.

Say, did I ever tell you about getting tear gassed at the Sly and the Family Stone riot in Grant Park? Hey, where ya goin’?

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